Pictoplasma Berlin 2017: The blowing of socks and skins

Favourites from the show

Pictoplasma blew my socks off (together with my slippers, skin, and probably part of my nervous system too).

Last May, together with my colleagues José and Fran, I visited the Pictoplasma Conference in Berlin on my recommendation. This was the second time I visited Pictoplasma since 2014, and anxiety hit as I raised the expectations bar quite high. What follows are some things that struck me and which I would like to share…

Picto-what?

For some context, Pictoplasma is a 3-day conference consisting of lectures, screenings, exhibitions, and workshops about character design: the creation, life, and realisation of a subject. A character usually includes a face, limbs, a voice and other typical features, but this is not a strict rule. Pictoplasma challenges that.

Although very niche, the attendees consisted of talent from across the globe. It showcases emerging trends and artists, and un-defines what a character can be. The practice of the featured artists varies from big commercial successes, such as creators from The Amazing World of Gumball and multinational toy company Hasbro, to emerging and underground talent such as Peter Millard’s ‘art-full’ animations. Characters roam across all kinds of media such as video games, toys, costumes, short films, music videos, street art, comics, merchandise, and anything possible and are made both for children or adults — in fact some of the projects are akin to creepy nightmares.

Sensei-worthy words

The healthy mixture of speakers comes from all over the world–different styles, different languages, different context. Each one had something unique to share. These are a few quotes that echoed my mind after the conference…

“With bad news, fantasy prevails”

Read: escapism. Georgina Melone from Hasbro Inc. talks about how My Little Pony prospered through harder times around the world — akin to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

“Butts are great. Make more butts. They’re great.”

One of the wisest thing I heard involved buttocks. Everyone has one: Sean Carmatz mentioned how adding a bottom to a character automatically makes it easier to empathise with. It just makes your character butt-er.

“Backgrounds and landscape are characters of their own too”

Rob Flowers explains the landscape as a meta-character that sits in the background by showing a creepy vintage McDonald’s commercial — a favourite inspiration of his.

Adrian’s Animation Awards™

Animation plays a key role at Pictoplasma. Here are some of my personal favourites.

Honorable mentions

YIN by Nicolas Fong: Worthy for M.C. Escher and Monument Valley fans.
Hi Stranger by Kirsten Lepore: If Pictoplasma would be something, it would be this.
Hot Dog Hands by Matt Reynolds: Runner-up for the ‘What-the-fuck’ award.
Bananas by Julian Frost: Because, bananas.

The Goosebumps award

Style Frames Opening Title by Eran Hilleli

Play this load. If you have a 90s Bass Boost function, use it.

It’s a rollercoaster emotional ride starting with ‘award-winning’ goosebumps generated by the horn’s excellent deep sound which consequently calls a whole series of modularly-designed creatures — big bow to Hilleli’s for S.C.A.M.P.E.R. usage here; they all feel like one big family, yet each with their distinct persona! All this followed by the formation into one of the best character parades I have ever seen — an homage to an equally awesome one by Satoshi’s Paprika. And concluding with the warmest heart-warming warmth straight to the sea giant’s heart — and inevitably, mine too.

The ‘Death-by-laughing’ award

Double King by Felix Colgrave

Sweet deliberate death.

If a Monty Python’s collage-animations and a metal album cover had a child, this would be it. It is a bit of a cliché to make a parody of the Feudal age’s harsh monarchial-realities, but not Death King.

The clean snake-pierced-with-double-swords visual together with the Gregorian-metal soundscape was probably my favourite bit — second only to the crown’s clever modular repurposing. Obviously, the Gameboy and William Morris’ floral pattern references at at 4:30 and 6:15 respectively was the cream, whilst the scene in hell was the cherry!

The Existential-crisis award

Wednesday with Goddard by Nicolas Ménard

Avoid being eating alive by the Canadian grizzly bear.

The intro-credit sequence immediately sets the tone for a serious show using beautifully drawn nature and paired with the gentlest music reminiscent of a Disney-short — until a contrastingly crude man start a typical cheesy monologue about God’s beauty and existence. The beauty in the aesthetic together with the comically-dramatised script is one of the greatest ways to represent the feeble quests people sometimes embark to in order to find spiritual enlightenment. It’s sweet, funny, and sad all at once.

The ‘What-the-fuck’ award

What I forgot to say by Patrick Buhr

(ಠ_ಠ)

Pictoplasma has a late-night screening called Psychedelic Midnight Mix (emphasis on the psychedelic), just to make sure you have the vividest of dreams. What I forgot to say was a part of it. This short thicks all the boxes: lucid visuals, soft-voices, a deliberately-confusing plot, meow-cancelled cats, disco dogs, lines — everything. Now… what did I want to say? It doesn’t matter. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Outro

Recovering from my blown off socks and foot flesh was pretty intense. In fact, I’m still under it. Pictoplasma is probably my biggest source of amazing work I can think of. The atmosphere never degrades, the people are always unique, and the beers are always full. Fingers (and hopefully toes) crossed for an even better 2018!

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